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Tooth and Claw
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Battle #1 <> Battle #2 <> Battle #3 <> Battle #4 <> Battle #5 <> Battle #6 <> Final Thoughts
Tooth and Claw: Battle #4 ("Meeting
A column of Space Wolves, led by Venerable Dreadnought Ferin Ironhammer, picked their way through the overgrown ruins of the Vedic city at the foot of the mountains. The city was old—older than Ferin, older than the Space Wolves Chapter, older even than the Imperium itself, built in the Dark Age of Technology, when humans first came to Veda. Over the millennia, the jungle had consumed the city, covering it in vines and brush and tall trees. Now it was invisible from the air, forgotten by the natives, and undisturbed by man. Until now.
Loganson, the leader of the Scouts, stretched and hopped down off a toppled marble column as Ferin and his men approached. He dangled his combat shotgun across his shoulders. “About time you all got here,” Loganson grumbled. “I love sitting around in the heat waiting.”
“I’m in no mood for your mouth,” Ferin growled. “What have you found?”
“In here,” Loganson replied, jerking his thumb toward the ruined temple. He and his men had found the city—and the temple, here at the center—last night. He led the Wolves up the cracked marble steps—white with black and green veins—and inside, where it was dark but just as hot. Bjard and Furin, two of Loganson’s men, were waiting inside and joined them.
The Wolves needed no lights, their eyes and noses—keener than any other Marines—leading them through the darkness that was broken only here and there by a crack in a wall or ceiling. They made their way, their armored footsteps falling tat tat tat tat, surprisingly quiet for a column of heavily armored men. Ferin’s feet went fud, fud, fud.
They entered a large chamber filled with a low buzzing. “Here,” Loganson said, pointing up. Dozens of helmet lights switched on, thin white rays of light angling up to get a better look at what awaited them.
Two Space Wolves hung there by their own dried intestines, barely recognizable under the mat of flies and beetles and other swarming insects that covered them, feasting on them, laying their eggs in them. Their eye sockets had been gouged into huge holes already squirming with maggots. Their noses were missing. Jagged blades had widened their bloody, toothless mouths into grotesque smiles. They looked more like jack-o-lanterns than men.
Balder swore and ripped off his helmet. “Those men—Ossi and Hurgrin! They’re mine, Lord Ferin. Whoreson bastard alfir—they butchered my men!” He drew his combat knife and moved to cut the two men down.
“Stop,” murmured Ferin, lowering his hammer in Balder’s path. “Do not approach too closely. Often do the Dark Eldar booby trap the bodies of their victims.” He turned to Loganson. “Have you examined the bodies?”
“No, we wanted you to see them as we found them,” the Scout replied. “There’s more—this way.”
He led them into a larger, adjoining chamber, a circular room. “Take a look at this.”
Their lights followed his finger up, up, to the paintings that covered the domed ceiling. Lithe figures with silvery white hair, burning red eyes, and skin the color of night, danced and copulated and spilled blood and ate the flesh of infants and received the worship of human slaves. Human slaves bound in endless spools of razorwire. Human slaves crying out in abject misery to laughing, inhuman masters. Human slaves broken on racks and flung into pits of stinging vermin. Human slaves subject to every lascivious desire of the Dark Ones. Human slaves crated in wooden pens and forced to wallow in their own excrement.
All under the rune, painted at the very top of the dome, of the Kabal of the Ozone Scorpions.
“By Oth’s mailed fist,” whispered Ferin.
“The alfir were here before,” Loganson said. “Years ago. Thousands of years, by the look of it. And they made the people worship them—when they weren’t doing worse things to them. This was a temple, I think.”
“They meant for us to find this place,” Balder said. “Why?”
“To taunt us,” Ferin growled. “Again. To show us their power. Again. To prove some kind of sick point. Again.” He turned to Loganson. “What else is there?”
“That’s about it. We think they may have used this city as a staging area. We’ve found evidence that they’ve been back and forth through here dozens of times in the last few days. Their trail leads up into the mountains. I have my best men on it.”
“Good.” Ferin opened a comm channel. “Lars.”
His lieutenant answered immediately. “Lord Ferin.”
“Where are you?”
“About seven miles south of your position. We’ve found nothing: this lead is—”
“Loganson has tracked them,” Ferin interrupted. “Get here as soon as you can.”
Ferin closed the comm channel and turned to his men. “The Dark Eldar may return at any moment, hoping to catch us in a trap. Let us lay a trap for them instead. And let us not forget our fallen comrades. Reverently take them down and prepare them for the funeral pyre.”
He looked up at the garishly painted ceiling. “But first, we burn this filth off the walls.”
Snarling, Balder snatched the flamer from the man next to him and was the first to send cleansing fire over the ancient stone.
There was a high whistling sound and a pair of rockets sliced through the engine of the lead Raider, crippling it. It crashed to the stony street below and exploded, killing three of the Dark Eldar aboard. Atop a high building, once a watchtower, Long Fang Pack Aesir unleashed their heavy bolters on Relonarr’s Raider, shooting off its disintegrator and forcing the crew and passengers to cower behind any piece of cover they had.
Simultaneously, Ferin Ironhammer, followed by a Land Speeder Typhoon and a Tornado, rounded a corner and opened fire at the Talos that was prowling the ruins, looking for sustenance. Thousands of heavy bolter rounds and hundreds of assault cannon shells filled the air, drilling the mechanical scorpion until its metal hide buckled and shindered and the unnatural beast burst into flame and crashed.
“Oh my,” muttered Dr. Jheste, and clung tighter to the rail of his Raider. The other Dark Eldar, including their mistress, Eklavdrah, ducked as fragments of Vhlondryll’s skycraft went sizzling through the air as white-hot shrapnel. “Oh my, oh my, oh my….”
His master, Archon Syryx Lynatharr, had ordered him to leave a trail that the Wolves could follow—and so they had. But Lynatharr had said nothing about the Wolves being here now—they should be miles away, nearing the Batara Pass, where the Dark Eldar were heading, intending to attack them. How could they be here now? How could the Ozone Scorpions be under attack?
“It’s an ambush!” Eklavdrah snarled. “Now what?”
Under his silver mask, Jheste licked his suddenly dry lips. A life-long coward, his first instinct was to order the detachment to flee back to Tharalon, the Scorpions’ underground city here on Veda. But perhaps the Wolves’ initial barrage could be weathered and the tide turned against the Fenrisians….
The psychopathic Reavers screeched along the sides of the battle, moving towards Pack Roskva. As Vholndryll and the survivors of her squad provided covering fire, the Warp Beasts tried to scuttle through the rubble to engage Pack Mimir, but were severely hindered by the broken terrain. Though Vhlondryll’s crew hadn’t killed any of the Wolves, at least they had persuaded them to keep their heads down—for the moment, anyway.
The Raiders advanced, firing. Following Jheste’s orders, Eklavdrah steered her craft to the right, past Relonarr’s drifting vehicle, toward Pack Aesir. Though the dark lance of her Raider failed to penetrate the broken stone that the Long Fangs hid behind, her squad’s splinter cannon shredded their Sergeant. The disintegrator of the Silver Scorpions—Wyches by another name—fried another Long Fang, silencing one of their heavy bolters.
On the left, two fully-loaded Raiders fired on Pack Roskva with disintegrator, splinter rifles, and splinter cannons. Six Fenrisians fell to flame and poisoned slivers. Kharynydia hailed Jheste on her communicator.
“Shall we cut them?” she asked.
“Not yet. Hold where you are and soften them up with more fire until the Reavers are in position. A cornered Wolf is a very dangerous Wolf, you know.”
“My crew and I are not afraid of them!” she hissed.
“You have your orders!” he shrieked.
She snapped off her comlink. That fool is going to get us all killed, she thought.
“Glad to have you here,” Ferin replied to Lars. His battlefield monitor tracked the Terminators as they scaled the temple walls and took up firing positions on the roof. “Help yourself: there’s plenty of killing to go around.”
The Space Wolves pushed forward, Ferin leading the Land Speeders toward the Dark Eldar, Packs Roskva and Mimir trudging on foot through the ruins and the hail of Scorpion fire. Only Roskva’s Rhino, Long Fang Pack Aesir, and the Whirlwind “Kraken” did not move.
The Whirlwind fired its rockets at the Warp Beasts threatening Pack Mimir, the explosion killing one of them and shattering Eklavdrah’s Raider as well. Three of her crew died in the conflagration, but she and Jheste were unharmed—for the moment. Ferin and the Land Speeder Tornado “Ragnarok” fired into the squad as they landed, gunning down four more of them. Nearby, the Land Speeder Typhoon “Maelstrom” unleashed its heavy bolter and missile launcher at the Silver Scorpions’ Raider, disabling it: three of the elite killers died as it crashed near a long, narrow building.
Lars and his Terminators went swiftly to work, firing at one of the Raiders menacing Pack Roskva. The assault cannons shattered the vehicle’s engines and it plummeted onto an ancient stone building, bursting into flame and killing half the svartalfir aboard. Wolf Guard Hodur flashed the Terminators the “thumbs up” sign and his men fired on the dazed survivors, killing another one of them.
Both Rhinos fired at the other Raider floating above Squad Roskva, but did no damage. Confident that the Warp Beasts could be safely ignored for the moment, Wolf Guard Balder ordered his men to fire on Kharynydia’s Raider, destroying it with a well-placed plasma pistol shot through the fuel cells. Four of them died and the rest clung to the wreckage as it fell; as they staggered out, Long Fang Pack Aesir sent heavy bolter rounds through two of them, literally ripping each target in half.
The rout was on. Pack Roskva charged the nearby Reavers, striking down one of them. Pack Mimir sprinted into the ruins of the long narrow building and charged the survivors of the two Raiders that had threatened Roskva. Though the Sybarite Eylservs managed to slay one of the Wolves with his poisoned blade, the Fenrisians cut down three of his squad and all from the other squad. The rest ran like rabbits.
“It’s a damn good day here on the farm,” Balder chuckled, flexing the fingers of his power fist, wet and slick with Dark Eldar blood.
As Ferin pounded forward, Vhlondryll’s squad and Eklavdrah’s squad moved up. Each squad included a Dark Eldar armed with a blaster, capable of obliterating the Venerable Dreadnought. They fired: Vhlondryll’s squad was out of range and the blaster from Eklavdrah’s squad missed. “None of you can stop me,” Ferin boomed, “and all of you are going to die!”
Relonarr’s Raider was the only one still aloft, though it had already lost its disintegrator. The Sybarite looked up from behind the cowling where he had taken cover. Two of the accursed Long Fangs still stood, heavy bolters smoking from their latest volley. He snarled an order to his pilot, and the Raider rocketed full speed toward them, pivoting in the air to hover above Pack Aesir. Relonarr drew his poisoned blades as his crew prepared to leap down and spill Fenrisian blood.
Balder’s grin faded quickly as he saw more Scorpions move in. They came, sprinting over the broken cobblestones, scrambling up the sides of the long narrow building, nimbly avoiding clinging vines and rusted beams. The Silver Scorpions—Wyches—lead the charge, followed closely by the Warp Beasts. Eschewing any shooting, they crashed into Pack Mimir. The Silver Scorpions swept up two of Balder’s men in the barbed nets and stabbed them to death, puncturing lungs, skewering hearts, gouging out eyes. The Warp Beasts leapt on another Fenrisian, claws snipping off limbs, tails dripping venom as they stung again and again. Balder’s men fought back, chainswords slashing. Two of the verminous Warp Beasts died to their blades and the Wolves dug in, standing back-to-back against the Scorpions’ deadliest fighters.
Meanwhile, Pack Roskva was having a much easier time. The Reavers hadn’t counted on the Wolves rushing them: they quickly ceased their mad cackling when their wild swings failed to connect with any Fenrisians. Hodur and his men hacked down two more of them and the last one fled.
But the Wolves had seen Relonarr’s move, and were responding with swiftness and precision. The Land Speeder Tornado angled up and fired its heavy bolter and assault cannon at the last Raider, perforating it. Relonarr and his squad jumped clear, but one was caught in the explosion, a twisted piece of steering vane scything him in half. The nine surviving members landed on their feet, but as they stood, the Dreadnought, the Terminators, and the Long Fangs unloaded all their weapons at them. Even with the cover afforded them by the roof, there was no escape from so much firepower. Ferin gunned down two, the Terminators killed five, and Pack Aesir accounted for the last two. In a twinkling, the Scorpions’s bold counterattack was negated.
“No,” Jheste whispered. This can’t be happening. This can’t.
But it was. The Whirlwind fired again, its salvo landing squarely amidst Vhlondryll’s squad, but they heard it coming and dove for cover, escaping without injury. As they rose, the Land Speeder Typhoon found three of them and the two Gray Hunter Rhinos blasted them, taking down another one.
They can’t do that, Jheste told himself. They’re not smart enough to do that. They’re animals. Just dumb animals. Mon-keigh. Nothing more.
Almost casually, one of the Gray Hunters from Pack Roskva fired his plasma pistol at the lone retreating Reaver and blew his bike out from under him. Then Hodur’s remaining fellows threw themselves heedlessly at the Silver Scorpions and the Warp Beasts, calling to their brothers in Pack Mimir to stand firm. The Silver Scorpions struck first, of course, cutting down two more of Pack Mimir, but the Warp Beasts uncharacteristically quailed before the Space Wolf onslaught, flailing away uselessly and chittering in fear. Not a single claw slash or tail sting landed a solid blow. Roaring their rage, the Wolves hacked down four of the leaping, dodging Silver Scorpions. The Fenrisians were too strong. Blygos signaled the retreat, and his men ran for it, Beastmaster Wormwood and his pet monsters scampering alongside.
Jheste realized with growing horror that he had seriously underestimated these Space Wolves. And, he suspected, so had his Archon. I’ve got to get out of here—
“Ah, there you are, you little bastard,” a voice growled. It was the Dreadnought, its hammer dripping gore. Behind it lay the shattered remains of Eklavdrah’s squad, which the metal monster had torn through while Jheste was watching the Silver Scorpions fight. Of Eklavdrah herself, there was no sign.
“I’ve got you at last,” the Space Wolf Dreadnought said. It raised its weapon.
Jheste felt his bowels let go in a fetid wet trickle before the hammer smashed him into jelly.
Stepping over the squashed corpse of the Haemonculus, Ferin Ironhammer watched the handful of remaining Dark Eldar run like hell. He signaled Loganson.
“There are some stragglers headed your way. Kill them all.”
“I hear ya,” came the reply.
Ferin looked down at Dr. Jheste,
who had burst like an overripe grape. His trademark silver mask was nothing
more than tiny wet fragments scattered among the ancient stone street of
the city. Ferin’s only regret was that, as a Dreadnought, he was unable
to spit on his foe’s body.
Post-game Analysis by
The ironic part is that going into this game, I thought it was mine for the taking. The victory conditions were simple: grab buildings and hold them with your infantry. Well, I reasoned, if Pat doesn’t have any infantry, he can’t win, can he? All I had to do was take out his guys on foot: 20 Gray Hunters, 4 Long Fangs, 5 Terminators, and Lars. So my strategy was like the name of the first Metallica album: “Kill ‘em all.”
To that end, and because I had won the last game, I picked “Spoil of War” C and rolled to keep Lars and bodyguard off the field, held in Reserve. The Termies were the only infantry unit I really sweated: splinter rifles and poisoned blades are little to no use against their armor and their firepower is Pure Death to Dark Eldar. My plan was to keep them sitting on the sidelines while I ate the rest of Pat’s infantry, then deal with them when they waddled onto the field, hopefully on Turn 4 or 5. Technically, Pat only had to keep the Wolfguard off the field, not Lars, but he insisted on keeping the Battle Leader in Reserve even after I pointed that out to him. Sucker, I thought. Little did I know.
Deployment is usually my downfall, and while I did okay in this game (spreading out as best I could in the corner of a 4' x 4' table), I placed the Wyches near the back instead of up near the front. I just plain forgot to make room for them, so my primo assault unit was all the way in the far corner of my deployment zone. Oh, wait, I remember: I was trying to keep them out of range of Pat’s Whirlwind. Yeah, honest. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
(You don’t buy that for a moment, do you? I thought not.)
In other missions, I’ve had the advantage of having a good chunk of Pat’s army off the board while I had most of mine available. This has made life easier on my very fragile Raiders, the heart of my army. I wouldn’t have that luxury this time, so I deliberately put the Big Bad Talos out in front and dared Pat’s army to come and get it. Even if they took it out, that was only 100 points lost and it would draw heaps of attention away from my Raiders.
The crucial play of the game, in my opinion, was Pat winning the roll to go first. He unloaded a serious amount of gunfire on Turn 1. As expected, he threw most of it at the Talos, and the Big Bug of Death crumpled like paper. Hmmm. I know the Talos isn’t invulnerable (it isn’t a frickin’ Wraithlord, after all), but I had hoped it would live through one turn. Ah well. At least it had drawn off plenty of fire.
Worse was that Pat’s Whirlwind managed to immobilize one Raider and knock the disintegrator off another (in addition to stunning it). I was counting on those disintegrators to help me out later with the Terminators. Darn, double darn, triple darn, HECK!
Worst of all was my response. I wafted the Raiders a casual 12" forward so they could fire their big guns while their squads fired their lighter weapons. While I managed to tag six guys out of Pack Roskva, I only brought down two of Long Fang Pack Aesir. I also elected to have the two Raider squads I had sent after Roskva stay in their ride and shoot on the next turn rather than jump down and go hand-to-hand. Only one of them was in charge range, and I wasn’t confident that they would take out Roskva. Meanwhile, Mimir wasn’t far away, and would definitely put a hurt on the lone Raider squad to engage Roskva.
What I should have done was send the Wyches to back up those two squads instead of getting into a shooting match with the Long Fangs. Despite the Space Wolves’ strength in close combat, I needed to be more aggressive with my Raiders.
On Turn 2, Lars and crew came in from Reserves and now I had a serious problem. Pat unloaded more shooting, dropping three more Raiders and the Wyches’ ride as well. In two turns of firing, he had crippled my mobility (the Dark Eldar’s main strength) and silenced all my big guns. If I was going to get back in the game, I had to do it through close combat. That didn’t look likely when Packs Mimir and Roskva mauled Flytes Moryl and Tormtyr (the two Raider squads sent against them) and the Reavers, too. The Reavers, by the way, brought some useless combat drugs to the party: Always strike first. Gee, as if I needed that against slowpoke Space Marines….
Regaining control of my stunned Raider (the only one I had left), I sent it hurtling a full 24" toward the Long Fangs. I knew Pat was going to throw all his firepower at it, but when it blew up, the survivors would still be in charge range of Pack Aesir. And with the 4+ cover save from being in a building, they would be safe until they got the chance to cut Aesir to ribbons.
On the other end of the field, my downed Wyches rolled a “6” for their difficult terrain check during the Movement Phase, a “6” using Fleet of Foot, and another “6” for their difficult terrain check as they charged Pack Mimir. The Warp Beasts managed to do something similar. All right! Thanks to those excellent rolls and the liberal Codex: Cityfight assault rules, the surviving members of my best hand-to-hand units were now each considered to be in base-to-base contact with Pat’s Gray Hunters. Let the whoop-ass begin!
But no. The Wyches and Warp Beasts had mediocre rolls (even with the Wyches enjoying WS 5 from their combat drugs) and Pack Mimir did what Gray Hunters do best: hang in there and keep swinging. As expected, Pat blew up the last Raider, then poured most of his firepower into Relonarr’s squad—who managed to brick every 4+ save they had. Just like that, I had lost a Raider and ten guys. To shooting. From Space Wolves, a supposedly “assault-oriented” army.
Pack Roskva bailed out Pack Mimir, and my fearsome close-combat units ran for it. At that point, I didn’t even care much that the blasters from Vhlondryll’s and Eklavdrah’s squads hadn’t done squat to Ferin. Or that he charged Eklavdrah’s squad and ate them for lunch. Or that he consolidated into Jheste. It was only Turn 3 and the game was effectively over. I conceded.
Ouch, ouch, ouch.
I take away three things from this battle. One, I need to be more aggressive with my Raider squads: don’t shoot, scoot! The heavy weapons on the vehicles should be an afterthought. My first priority must be to get my troops into assault position, and if targets present themselves afterwards, THEN I should shoot.
Secondly, I should try to squeeze in some more agonizers for the final battle, which will feature 2000 points a side. When we began the campaign, Pat and I thought that we would simply add another 500 points to the lists we’re currently using, but in light of all we’ve learned about Space Wolves and Dark Eldar, we’ve decided to re-write the lists from scratch. As an assault army, I need more heavy-hitting power in scraps, and agonizers should help nicely. Being a firm believer in WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) however, I’m only going to hand out agonizers to models that look like they are carrying something comparable. That big trident that Eklavdrah carries is definitely going to become an agonizer, and perhaps some of the other Sybarites will trade in their poisoned blades, too.
Third, the Cityfight rules are pretty cool. This was the first time that Pat and I had ever used them, and I liked them. I think most of the rules benefit non-Marines more—much more—than they benefit Marines, but if that’s true, then my ass-kicking would have been even worse under the regular rules.
Ouch, ouch, ouch.
Post-game Analysis by
Units such as the Long Fangs, Whirlwind, and terminators that had to come in from reserve in the previous missions would be able to start on the board (although Kenton ended up disrupting the Terminators--oh well, so much for that). My strategy was to use a “hammer and anvil” approach. The Long Fangs, Whirlwind, Land Speeders, and Venerable Dreadnought would form the “anvil” – static forces that would provide cover fire as needed. The Gray Hunter squads and Terminators would act as the “hammer,” sweeping in from the other side and trapping the Dark Eldar in between. The plan worked almost to perfection.
Having appeased the dice gods with a terrible last game, I managed to have a spectacular first turn this game. Of primary concern was the Talos, which I knew would give me problems if it ever reached close combat. Fortunately, I had a total of 18 shots available to shoot at it (3 heavy bolters in the Long Fangs, the Dreadnought heavy bolter, the Typhoon’s heavy bolter, and the Tornado’s assault cannon). As it turned out, I was able to divert some of the shots elsewhere after it went down sooner than expected.
Destroying the Talos on Turn 1 would prove to be a strategic blow that Kenton could not recover from. With Two raider squads forced to hang back (one lost its ride, the other stunned), he was now forced to split up his army. While the more mobile elements moved to engage the Gray Hunters on one side of the board, the static units were left behind to deal with my “anvil” units. At this point, however, the outcome of the game was still in the balance.
Turn 2 continued to favor the Wolves with good fortune. The Terminators made their Reserve roll and immediately claimed a building and began providing cover fire. I will never again underestimate the value of storm bolters. In the assault phase, I was able to wipe out the two squads of warriors that had attacked the Gray Hunters. However, Kenton had both the Wyches and Warp Beasts in striking position of Gray Hunter Squad Mimir. The play of the game, in my opinion, came at the end of Turn 2 when Squad Mimir survived being assaulted by the Wyches and Warp Beasts. Had Mimir fallen, those two units would have been free to run rampant on my side of the board. Instead Squad Roskva was able to come to Mimir’s aid and drive back the Dark Eldar forces.
So, were any revelations derived
from such a decisive victory? Not really. Luck, as always, is a fickle
mistress and this time favored me. Kenton and I are far too evenly matched
to think that the next battle will play out in the same way. Still, every
now and again it is gratifying to know that sometimes the plan does work.
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© Copyright Kenton
Kilgore and Patrick Eibel, December 2002
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